Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that Russia is already meddling in America’s 2018 midterm elections, and that the U.S. is not necessarily better prepared to deal with the Moscow’s influence than it was in 2016.
The U.S. intelligence community unanimously says that the Kremlin hacked, distributed leaked information, and waged a considerable media campaign to influence the 2016 presidential election in favor of President Donald Trump, and Tillerson told Fox News there’s not much the U.S. can do to stop them the next time around.
“I don’t know that I would say we are better prepared, because the Russians will adapt as well,” Tillerson told Fox.
The point is, if it’s their intention to interfere, they are going to find ways to do that,” he continued. “We can take steps we can take but this is something that, once they decide they are going to do it, it’s very difficult to preempt it.
Though Russia likely broke the law by having state-backed hackers steal information from the Democratic National Committee, cybercrime remains highly unattributable and below the threshold of crimes that the U.S. would respond to with military action.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis speak to members of the press following a U.S. – China diplomatic and security dialogue at the U.S. State Department in Washington, D.C., June 21, 2017. The dialogue will help the United States narrow its differences with China while expanding cooperation in areas where possible. (DOD photo by U.S. Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith)
Also, much of Russia’s most visible attempts to influence the election were perfectly legal. Russian media outlets bought and paid for advertising and exposure on U.S. social media platforms, like Twitter and Facebook, just like everyone else does.
“There’s a lot of ways that the Russians can meddle in the elections, a lot of different tools they can use,” Tillerson said.
Tillerson told Fox that he suspects Russia’s exercise of its influence has already begun and indicated that the U.S. doesn’t really have a solid plan to block it.
“I think it’s important we just continue to say to Russia, ‘Look, you think we don’t see what you’re doing. We do see it and you need to stop. If you don’t, you’re going to just continue to invite consequences for yourself,'” Tillerson said.
Tillerson’s comment about consequences comes after Trump declined to impose sanctions on those with ties to Russia’s defense and intelligence apparatuses in response to the election meddling in 2016.
“There is no power, water or sewer service to the base at this time,” Air Force spokeswoman Erika Yepsen said in a statement. “All personnel assigned to ride out the storm are accounted for with no injuries.”
The National Hurricane Center said the storm reached Category 4 status, with 150 mph winds as it made landfall early Wednesday afternoon. Tyndall at one point was in the eye of the storm.
“The Air Force is working to conduct aerial surveillance of the damage, to clear a route to the base and to provide security, potable water, latrines and communication equipment,” Yepsen said, adding that the base will remain closed and airmen should not plan to return until further notice.
“The good news is the airmen that we left behind to ride out the storm are all safe and accounted for,” Gen. Mike Holmes, head of Air Combat Command, said in a video posted on Twitter. “In the short-term, it’s just not safe to return there. In the hours and days to come, we’ll know more about the conditions at Tyndall, and we’ll know more about when [airmen] can come back.”
A YouTube video showed an F-15 static display aircraft knocked over. Roofs were damaged across the base, trees were shown split or scattered, and vehicles were overturned.
Aerial image shows destruction at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, after Hurricane Michael made landfall Oct. 10 and 11, 2018.
At Eglin Air Force Base, the 96th Test Wing commander declared that base can return to normal operations and that base services will reopen Oct. 12, 2018.
While Hurlburt’s base services remained closed Oct. 11, 2018, “it appears the storm has made the long-awaited turn to the northeast,” Col. Michael E. Conley, 1st SOW commander, said on Facebook.
He went on to say it appeared that Hurlburt Field would be “spared from the worst impacts” and that the base, home to the Air Force’s special tactics community, “dodged a bullet.”
“Let’s give the Tyndall team the chance to fully assess the situation and figure out what they need,” Conley said.
Tyndall on Oct. 8, 2018, ordered the evacuation of all on-and-off-base personnel ahead of the hurricane. Personnel were given permission to use their government-issued credit cards “for any expenses incurred during this evacuation,” a base statement said, adding they will be reimbursed for any travel expenses of at least 100 miles, but no more than 500 miles, from the base.
Honorably discharged veterans who want to shop at the online exchanges could be given access early as part of a group of “beta testers” through a new veteran shopper verification system launched June 5th.
The Defense Department resale board last year approved a plan to open the exchange’s online stores to all veterans. Those who are verified through a new site will have access to all of the online exchange stores, including AAFES, the Coast Guard Exchange, the Marine Corps Exchange and the Navy Exchange.
The verification site, VetVerify.org, asks users to input their first and last names, last four digits of their Social Security number, birth date, email address, and service branch. Veterans will then be notified whether they are ineligible, are already eligible to shop, that they will be eligible on the official Nov. 11 launch date, or that they have been randomly selected to be a beta tester.
The new benefit is available to all honorably discharged veterans. The rule change does not allow the new veteran shoppers to use the exchange in person or shop at the commissary. It also does not include access to gasoline, tobacco, or uniform sales.
Officials with the Army and Air Force Exchange Service said early shoppers will be given access on a rolling basis in an effort to make sure the system is ready when the benefit fully opens on Veterans Day. Although verification and shopping should be seamless, they said it is possible that beta users could experience some hiccups.
“They don’t want to just open this thing on Veterans Day … when you can work the kinks out ahead of time,” said Chris Ward, an AAFES spokesman. “That is the point of doing this — to make sure there aren’t any hiccups or bugs in the system.”
Products purchased through the exchanges are tax free, and a percentage of revenue benefits Morale, Welfare, and Recreation programs.
About 13 million veterans qualify for the new benefit. Officials did not have an estimate for how many veterans are expected to shop the online exchanges after Veterans Day or how many will register early.
“We’re kind of just going in blind,” Ward said. “We’re rolling it out this early — I don’t anticipate everyone comes today.”
Team Rubicon launched what they call “Operation Nirman,” in mid-March 2016. The mission is to rebuild a school and restore services in areas of Central Nepal damaged by last year’s devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake. Team Rubicon members from the U.S., United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, and Germany deployed to assist with Nirman. They will also receive help from the Prince of Wales.
Prince Harry is in the country on an official tour to see the many initiatives supporting the people of Nepal in the wake of the earthquake’s widespread destruction. After his official tour ends, the prince, himself an Afghan War veteran, will remain in Nepal with Team Rubicon on their relief efforts.
The 31-year-old royal is known for his dedication to veterans from all countries and his support for tackling the challenges they face. He runs the Endeavor Fund with his brother, Prince William and his wife, Princess Catherine. Endeavor Fund is a UK-based nonprofit to help service members overcome these challenges while “keeping Armed Forces issues in the public consciousness.”
Prince Harry will be embedded with a group of Team Rubicon volunteers in a remote village to help with the reconstruction of the new school. The team will trek into the mountains of Central Nepal with all the necessary equipment to assist the local community in repairing and rebuilding their school.
Since the earthquake struck, students have been taking their classes in makeshift classrooms made of poles, tarps, and tin sheets. These temporary facilities will provide little defense against the difficult weather conditions in the rainy season to come.
“The people I have met and the beauty of this country make it very hard to leave,” Prince Harry said. “The team I’m joining will be working with the community to rebuild a school damaged in the earthquake. I’m so grateful to have this opportunity to do my small bit to help.”
Team Rubicon UK was formed in response to the Nepal earthquake. General Sir Nick Parker, former Commander in Chief of the UK Land Forces and now Chairman of Team Rubicon UK, called for veterans in the United Kingdom to volunteer their time and skills in the immediate aftermath. A team quickly joined their Team Rubicon USA counterparts to provide medical aid, search and rescue support, and translation assistance in several remote regions of Nepal.
Former British Army gunner Christopher Lyon cleans up a local playground in Shermathang, Sinduhupalchok. (Team Rubicon photo)
By the end of the 2015, Team Rubicon UK responded to calls for help after floods in Cumbria and Yorkshire, as well as undertaking rebuilding projects in Nepal and the Philippines.
The retired admiral whom President Donald Trump wanted to replace Michael Flynn as national security adviser turned down the job, he said Thursday. The Financial Times first reported the news.
Trump offered the position to retired Adm. Robert Harward on Monday, according to Tom Ricks at Foreign Policy. At the time, the former Navy SEAL commander told the president he’d need some time to “think it over.”
“It’s purely a personal issue,” Harward told the Associated Press on Thursday evening. “I’m in a unique position finally after being in the military for 40 years to enjoy some personal time.”
CNN’s Jake Tapper reported on Twitter that a friend of Harward said Harward was reluctant to take the job since the Trump White House seemed so chaotic and called the offer a “s— sandwich.”
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Two administration officials confirmed to The Washington Post that Harward was at the top of Trump’s three-person short list to replace Flynn, who abruptly resigned from the role after it became public that he had discussed sanctions with Russia’s ambassador to the US before Trump’s inauguration. Flynn reportedly urged the ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, not to overreact to the latest round of sanctions imposed by the Obama administration, indicating that incoming administration might be more inclined to roll them back.
Harward, who rose to deputy commander of US Central Command before retiring in 2013, wanted to bring in his own staff for an overhaul of the National Security Council, according to Ricks.
One of FT’s sources said Harward was concerned about whether he could carry out such a “housecleaning” of NSC workers, many of whom were loyal to Flynn.
As national security adviser, Harward would have had a close ally in Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, whom he served under at Central Command. He also has NSC experience, having served on the council during the George W. Bush administration.
Retired Army Gen. Keith Kellogg is serving as acting national security adviser. Trump tweeted Friday morning that Kellogg was “very much in play for NSA — as are three others.”
All five branches of the U.S. military have earned high marks from American adults, according to a Gallup poll.
More than three in four of Americans surveyed who know something about the branches have overall favorable views of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, or Coast Guard, according to Gallup. More than half have a strongly favorable opinion.
In Gallup’s annual Confidence in Institutions poll released May 26, at least 72 percent of participants expressed “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in the military in the past eight years.
“This Memorial Day, Americans will once again have the opportunity to honor those who fought and died in service of their country,” Gallup’s Jim Norman said. “It comes at a time when the percentage of Americans who are military veterans continues to shrink, even as the nation moves through the 15th year of the Afghanistan War — the longest war in U.S. history.”
Broken down by branch, Air Force had the highest favorability rating of 81 percent — 57 percent “very favorable” and 24 percent “somewhat favorable” rating. Other branches were Navy and Marines each at 78 percent, Army at 77 percent, and Coast Guard at 76 percent.
Differences exist by political party, race, and age.
The biggest gap is among Republicans and Democrats with about a 30 percentage point difference. The largest is for the Navy with 74 percent favorability rating by Republicans and 39 percent among Democrats.
Republicans, non-Hispanic whites, and those aged 55 have more favorable views of each of the five branches than Democrats, non-whites, or those younger than 35.
Those surveys also were asked to list the most important branch. Air Force was No. 1 (27 percent) followed by the Army (21 percent), Navy and Marines (20 percent each), and 4 percent say the Coast Guard is the most important branch to national defense.
Gallup conducted telephone interviews April 24-May 2 with a random sample of 1,026 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. The margin of error is 4 percentage points.
“This is actually how we would get SEALs off the ship submerged,” Senior Chief Mark Eichenlaub told Business Insider.
“So you would stick a platoon of SEALs in here, 14 guys … you fill this chamber with water until you match the outer sea pressure. Once the pressure in and outside the ship match, the hatch will lift off open, and they can swim out of a fully filled chamber into open ocean.”
Once the chamber is filled with water, matching the pressure inside and out, “there’s an internal locking mechanism that would open” the top hatch where SEALs swim out, Senior Chief Darryl Wood told Business Insider.
The SEALs can then swim to retrieve what is known as a special-forces operations box, which would be filled with weapons and needed gear, from the tower.
In addition to getting SEALs off the ship, lockout trunks can be used for the entire crew to escape in case the submarine is downed.
This video gives a close-up look at the lockout trunk:
In May 2014 then-Tech Sgt. Kristopher Parker, an explosive ordnance disposal team leader, was out of comms in the middle of a firefight between U.S. troops and Taliban insurgents.
According to an Air Force release, the firefight started when Parker and other American forces who had been sent to clear an improvised explosive device factory came across the insurgents holed up in a cave.
Parker and his fellow troops faced RPGs, small-arms fire, and even hand-thrown IEDs during the 20-hour engagement with the enemy.
Despite all that incoming, Parker was doing a lot of multitasking. He swept the area for IEDs. He cleared routes. He pulled wounded personnel out of the line of fire. He marked cache locations.
“Kris saved the lives of so many Soldiers, Marines and Airmen,” Gen. Robin Rand, commander of Global Strike Command, said in the release. “He put their lives first and took care of them and that is so honorable.”
When the fight was done, 18 insurgents were dead. Parker had also cleared and destroyed over 200 pounds’ worth of homemade explosives.
On March 17, Parker, now a retired Master Sergeant, was awarded the Silver Star for his actions during that 20 hour battle. The award is the third highest that can be presented for valor in combat.
“We are so lucky to be here with this true hero,” Rand said. “A hero who has deployed several times in harm’s way. A hero that saved lives. I’m so humbled and appreciative of his incredible service. It’s a great time to be an Airman.”
It’s no secret the military is full of soup. Even an FNG could tell you that. There are even more specific alphabet soup acronyms within each branch: the Air Force has OTP, and the Marines have OSM (semi-respectively).
Here’s a couple of acronyms we made up that aren’t in use, but should be.
“Sergeant ran out of real tasks.”
This acronym is used to explain why you are: measuring the length of floor tiles, power washing a lawn chair, or cleaning an actual pile of garbage with Windex. We don’t ask why. We know.
Example: I know we’re outside in the desert, but S.R.O.O.R.T. so now we all have to sweep the dirt.
Images From The Korengal Outpost – The Far Side.
“Only dipping tobacco while on deployment.”
This acronym is the lie you tell yourself while on deployment. It soon warps into the closely related acronym “O.D.T.B.O.D.” which is “Only dipping tobacco because of deployment.”
Example: Yeah, I never used to chew Cope, but I’m O.D.T.W.O.D.
“Good piece of gear.”
This acronym is used to describe a fully functional piece of gear in the military.
Example: *N/A, no plausible use*
“Dinner” aboard the USS Green Bay.
(Sgt. Branden Colston/ USMC)
“Why did I even grab a fork?”
This acronym is used to describe the fine delicatessen cuisine service members enjoy on a ship. It’s food so sparse, so understated, so daringly simple, it begs the question: why did I even grab a fork?”
Example: Welcome aboard, today we will be serving delectable items from the W.D.I.E.G.A.F. cuisine: our first course is a handful of hard white rice, followed by two triangles of cardboard garlic bread, accented with a chalice of warm water. Served sea side. Bon Appetit.
“Not old enough for beer, only for armed combat.”
This is a much needed acronym for the millions of 18-to 21-year-olds in our military who cannot legally buy beer but can legally be trusted with billions of dollars of equipment and the lives of men who are old enough to buy beer. Granted, this one doesn’t really roll off the tongue—but neither does explaining the ancient logic behind this law.
Example: I’ll take an automatic rifle, a crate of C-4 explosives, and a Shirley Temple to drink, sorry I’m N.O.E.F.B.O.F.A.C.
“You make comm awful.”
This is for anybody who never shuts the hell up over comm. They add useless information, make bad jokes, clog up the line, and all kinds of other annoying things.
Example: You don’t have to mouth breath for 3 seconds before saying what you need to say. Y.M.C.A. Over.
“Boy, our operation’s boring, Sgt.”
Sometimes you have said all you need to say. You’ve been in a foreign place with the same 6 dudes for months. You can only talk about how bad the Cleveland Browns are, or what kind of food you wish you could eat, for so long… Sometimes, when you’ve been away for months and don’t have anything to talk about, you just talk about B.O.O.B.S.
MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. – Marine, former LAPD officer and novelist, Joseph Wambaugh, sat down with the Marine Corps Entertainment Media Liaison Office and discussed how his service gave him the values needed to pave the way for two successful careers, Aug. 9 2020.
Joseph Wambaugh is well known in the entertainment industry for his best-selling police novels and contributions to several television shows and feature films. Though much of his inspiration came from a long and distinguished career as a police officer with the Los Angeles Police Department, he attributes his work ethic and core values to another period in his life. Joseph Wambaugh is one of the few and the proud, the Marines. One whose service to America began in the mid-1950s.
In the second iteration of a series of dialogues with successful Marine veterans we found Wambaugh to be insightful, interesting, and able to provide key nuggets of wisdom to pass along to any Marine, veteran and citizen alike.
Wambaugh has written many prevalent novels to include “The New Centurions”, “The Choirboys”, “The Onion Field” and “Hollywood Station” to name a few. Twenty-one books in all, 13 fiction and eight non-fiction. Like many former Marines, he credits the Marine Corps with teaching him the value of an honest days’ work and, most importantly, for helping him mature.
“I was born in East Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania … an only child in a blue-collar family and lived there until I was 14 years old,” said Wambaugh. “It was about that time when my parents and I came to Ontario, California to bury a relative. Sunny California looked nothing like gritty, grimy Pittsburgh so we ended up staying. My father supported us as a washing machine repairman. I was a lazy student, almost always the youngest in my class. I graduated from Chaffey High School when I was nearly 17 and a half, too young to get a real job and with no college ambition. I talked my mother into signing for me and along with my best friend, joined the Marine Corps July 7, 1954. The Marine Corps made me grow up and realize the value and necessity of hard work.”
Wambaugh’s time in the Corps included service on both coasts of the United States. Early during his time as a Marine, he was assigned a few different occupations. However, it was his final assignment that foreshadowed his future successes.
“After boot camp in San Diego, I was sent to Jacksonville for training as an airplane mechanic but had no mechanical dexterity,” said Wambaugh. “I was then transferred to Marine Corps Air Station El Toro. My MOS [Military Occupational Specialty] was 0141, also known then as ‘office pinkie’, after my sergeant major discovered that I did learn one thing in high school – I could type. I spent the last 18 months of my enlistment at Camp Pendleton as a company clerk.”
Wambaugh married his high school sweetheart Dee while in the service and they have been married nearly 65 years. He took several college courses while off duty and by the time he was discharged he had accumulated some credits to put toward an undergraduate degree. He decided to use the Montgomery GI Bill along with the California Veteran’s Bill to finance a degree in English. He initially wanted to become a schoolteacher, however he learned the LAPD had openings and paid fairly well. Now mature, educated and with life experience as a Marine, he easily completed the requirements “To Protect and Serve” as a police officer. He was sworn in May 5, 1960.
Reflecting on his childhood and his service as a Marine and police officer, Wambaugh recalled always finding inspiration through reading. “Being an avid reader gave me an ability to express myself on paper,” Wambaugh said. “As a young boy I found Jack London’s works in the public library and read “The Call of the Wild” three times.”
It wasn’t only classics that inspired him. Like many children from his era, he also found joy reading comic books and watching movies.
“As an only child I got a generous one-dollar allowance each week and would buy five comic books every Saturday, then go to the movies and buy penny pretzels and a popsicle,” said Wambaugh. “That pretty much took care of the allowance.”
When asked about how he got started as a writer, Wambaugh remembered it being somewhat challenging but rewarding nonetheless. “I was a cop for nearly a decade before I began experimenting with short stories. I would send them to cheap magazines and they would write back with swift rejections,” recalled Wambaugh. “I finally decided to try for a famous magazine…”Playboy.” My short story was rejected but I couldn’t believe that someone actually had read it so I sent it to them a second time. This time my rejection said, ‘It’s no better this time than it was last time, schmuck,'” Wambaugh said smiling. “Many years later, when I was a bestselling author, “Playboy” asked me to write a story. I never got around to it and looked everywhere for the ‘Dear Schmuck letter’ to send back but couldn’t find it.”
Wambaugh’s first break came when his best-selling novel, “The New Centurions,” was optioned into a motion picture where it was adapted for the screen by an Oscar-winning screenwriter and starred an Oscar-winning actor. George C. Scott, another former Marine, played the leading role. This was an exciting time for Wambaugh.
Wambaugh remembered George C. Scott was known for his onset antics, mercurialness and being, at times, somewhat scary.
“For one of the few times I saw him on location or on set, George Scott played a not-so-funny prank on the production team.” Wambaugh said. “The prank included a prop revolver and blank cartridges and I’ll leave it at that. As we all settled down, George was suddenly buoyant and pumped. He had just done something very dangerous and he loved it. He was a peculiar fellow, but a truly great actor.”
From humble beginnings to entertainment celebrity, Wambaugh recalled being flattered that his work was so popular and how it led to the start of some great relationships.
“Of course, it was heady stuff, finding myself a casual acquaintance of so many celebrities,” said Wambaugh. “Director Harold Becker, who directed “The Onion Field” and “The Black Marble” from scripts I had adapted from my books, became a dear friend. He created the TV show ‘Police Story’, which was a big hit in the 1970s. He was ahead of his time and commonly told stories of female police officers, as he believed them more detailed in their storytelling.
Service as a police officer became increasingly difficult for Wambaugh as his celebrity grew. He eventually had to decide between his artistic work and his service as a police officer.
“Eventually it was becoming impossible for me to do police work,” Wambaugh said. “People I arrested were asking me to cast them in ‘Police Story.’ Others came to my station hoping I would read their manuscripts. My celebrity wiped out my ability to do police work and I reluctantly left the LAPD after 14 great years.”
When asked about what advice he had for Marines seeking a career in entertainment, Wambaugh offered a few insightful tips.
“I’m rather proud of my willpower when it comes to working day or night without letup until the job is done,” said Wambaugh. “I never lost that intensity until a book or script was finished. I think that growing up from the age of 17 until the age of 20 as a young Marine taught me to embrace and value hard work. There are all sorts of tangible and intangible rewards that come from knowing we have done our best and never backed off until the job was done.”
His advice for storytelling in the industry was very direct. Wambaugh offered, “Keep your audience broad so it appeals to the most possible people because cynically but truthfully, Hollywood is motivated by money. Action and violence should probably be tempered.”
The Headquarters Marine Corps Communication Directorate Los Angeles Office, assists directors, producers, and writers in the entertainment industry by providing Department of Defense support for major motion pictures, television shows, video games, and documentaries. The office aids in informing and educating the public on the roles and missions, history, operations, and training of the United States Marine Corps.
This article originally appeared on DVIDS. Follow @DVIDShub on Twitter.
ISIS has issued a travel advisory for Europe to its fighters due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, asking fighters to suspend travel to the region for terror attacks.
The latest edition of the terror group’s newsletter, Al-Naba, calls on its fighters to “stay away from the land of the epidemic,” Homeland Security Today recently reported.
“The healthy should not enter the land of the epidemic and the afflicted should not exit from it,” the editors of the newsletter stated.
The newsletter also offered militants advice on how to avoid getting infected, including “cover the mouth when yawning and sneezing” and “wash the hands before dipping them into vessels.” There’s a full-page graphic on the back cover that cites Islamic texts for “directives to deal with epidemics.”
The terror group’s newsletter has been following the novel coronavirus pandemic closely, reporting on the spread of the virus, which originated in Wuhan, China, since the beginning of 2020.
In a February edition, ISIS said “many Muslims rushed to confirm that this epidemic is a punishment from God Almighty” for China’s oppression of the Muslim Uighur minority, but went on to warn that the “the world is interconnected” and transportation “would facilitate the transfer of diseases and epidemics.”
ISIS no longer has a self-declared caliphate, meaning it doesn’t control a large swath of territory across Iraq and Syria anymore. But it’s estimated the terror group still has as many as 20,000 fighters in the region, and a recent UN report said the group has 0 million in reserves.
The U.S. Navy issued a warning to China’s Navy over Instagram this week, telling China that it doesn’t want to “play laser tag” with the U.S. Navy with their destroyer-based laser weapons.
Last month, a Chinese People’s Liberation Army-Navy destroyer pointed a military grade laser weapon at a U.S. Navy P-8A Poseidon, which is an aircraft designed specifically for various types of sea-based warfare, including anti-submarine operations. According to Defense Department reports, the P-8A was flying approximately 380 miles west of Guam when it encountered a Chinese destroyer believed to have been the Hohhot, among the latest and most advanced destroyers in China’s fleet.
The destroyer reportedly shined a laser weapon at the P-8A, though the laser caused no injuries or immediately recognizable damage. The aircraft is being inspected further for issues. Despite the low level of threat the laser posed, the U.S. Navy has been taking this attack quite seriously, recognizing it as a test, both of their weapon’s efficacy and of the American response.
While the Navy’s warning on Instagram seems almost playful, the U.S. Navy isn’t messing around when it comes to freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, nor are they kidding about their laser weapons. The U.S. currently has a number of laser weapons under development, and just recently deployed one aboard the USS Dewey aimed at “dazzling” or blinding and confusing drones.
This isn’t the first time the U.S. has had reports of being engaged with Chinese lasers, nor is it the first time these two naval powers have found themselves in a staring contest over China’s claims of sovereignty throughout the region. The United States and the international community recognize China’s claimed ownership of the South China Sea as illegal, but China’s Navy has been rapidly expanding to enforce their claims in recent years.
China’s claims over the South China Sea are shown in red.
With neither China nor the U.S. backing down in the Pacific, and laser weapons becoming more commonplace by the day, it seems entirely likely that this won’t be the last round of laser tag between our two navies.
For many service members, especially those stationed overseas, mail can be a lifeline to family, friends, and feeling connected to home. For those stationed within U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa, there is a team of Airmen dedicated to providing timely, cost effective, and efficient mail services.
The USAFE-AFAFRICA Air Postal Squadron represents the major command as the single point of contact for Air Force postal matters. The squadron provides policy, procedures, and guidance for all USAFE-AFAFRICA postal operating locations and exercises command of aerial mail terminals assigned to the USAFE-AFAFRICA AIRPS.
In a nutshell, the squadron ensures all mail travelling to and from the major command is transported by the fastest and most reliable means possible, while also ensuring delivery to the proper destination. These Airmen use their skills to bridge the distance between service members stationed in Europe and their loved ones.
“Our mission is essentially to get your mail to you,” said Staff Sgt. Dereth Worrell, USAFE AFAFRICA AIRPS noncommissioned officer in charge of command postal transportation. “What my flight does, as we like to put it, if the post offices in the [U.S.] and Army Post Offices here are A and Z, we cover everything from B to Y. We set up things like how your mail moves, what it takes to move, or should a new APO open.”
The AIRPS postal transportation flight validated a total volume of approximately 40 million pounds of inbound and outbound mail moved from Sept. 1, 2016 to Sept. 1, 2017.
The journey a package undergoes to reach its final destination is a long process requiring many moving parts. Once a package is dropped off at a local post office in the states, it is shipped to a U.S. Postal Service sorting facility in Chicago, within the O’Hare International Airport, that is two football fields long. This facility processes Priority Mail and Priority Mail Express Military Service going overseas, whether it’s civilian, military, or Department of State. Joint Military Postal Activity military personnel are assigned as liaisons to the USPS at the Chicago mail sorting facility.
At the sorting plant, mail is sorted and loaded onto commercial aircraft flying to one of three main hubs for military mail in Frankfurt, Germany, London, and Istanbul. However, for military post offices in Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands, mail can also be shipped to a USPS sorting facility in Jersey City, New Jersey, to a facility that processes retail ground and space available mail destined for APOs in those three countries.
“No one really thinks about the transportation aspect,” Worrell said. “They think, ‘Oh, I ordered this or my friends or family sent me this, and two weeks later it shows up in my box.’ It takes a lot of work. You’re dealing with so many entities and factors that can change everything, such as weather or civil disturbances. Waiting two and half weeks to get something isn’t that bad considering everything that box has to go through in order to get to you.”
The squadron has detachments at the hubs, for which the air postal squadron provides the tools, resources, policy, and oversight while adhering to postal policies outlined by USPS, the Air Force, Military Postal Service Agency, and the Air Force and Army major commands in Europe. They also manage mail movement to include the monitoring of Department of Defense official and personal mail in military and commercial transportation channels.While most mail handling is done by contractors, the Airmen in the detachments oversee the offloading, inspecting, sorting, and loading onto trucks the mail undergoes.
“My favorite part was when I was working at the air mail terminal in Turkey and actually seeing everything move, getting to load up the trucks, make sure everything was there and sending it off,” Worrell said. “It was very physical, and yes you were pretty much doing the same thing every day – I pick up box, I move box – but it was eye-opening.”
The Air Force works hand-in-hand with the Army to deliver mail throughout Europe. The Air Force is in charge of air transportation, but once all the packages and letters have been loaded into their respective trucks, the Army takes over the ground transportation.
“Mail is a very significant component of morale and greater morale has proven to be a major contributor to Airmen productivity,” said Master Sgt. Gregory Sartain, USAFE AFAFRICA AIRPS functional area manager. “Happy folks are better working folks. We are directly contributing to the delivery of Grandma’s cookies to the Airman who’s never been overseas.”
USAFE AFRICA AIRPS not only handles the transportation of personal mail, they are also responsible for the transportation of official mail throughout the theater.
“Not only do we have a big piece of the personal mail side for every Airman, civilian, and Department of Defense contractor, but we also directly contribute to the mission by ensuring the units have the parts, equipment and supplies needed to execute their missions,” Sartain said. “We’re talking about aircraft parts, communications pieces, things that are very important.”
The air postal squadron Airmen not only provide mail services to those stationed overseas, but when deployed they provide the same services to the military members downrange.
“Mail is appreciated in garrison, however, when you’re in a deployed environment, it’s different,” Sartain said. “When the Airman, Soldier, Marine, or Sailor gets that letter from home that smells like their girlfriend’s perfume, or they get cookies from mom while in a hostile and austere condition, it means more. There’s nothing more gratifying then handing a package to a service member and see their face light up. I really enjoy the deployments, being able to provide that morale support, which at times is crucial in a wartime situation.”